Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 14 2015

5 Tips To Help You Increase International Attendance At Your Next Meeting

By David McMillin

The meetings industry is no longer going global. It’s already there. As organizations look to increase registration numbers and recruit new members, it’s clear that capitalizing on growth opportunities relies on connecting with prospective attendees from new and emerging business markets. If you are working to expand your organization’s reach and attract a bigger worldwide audience to your next meeting, here are five tips to keep in mind.

1) Start an internal cultural conversation.

The first step toward creating a connection with an audience from thousands of miles away starts with the people in your own office. Janice Cooper, CMP, Director, Convention Operations, RSNA, said that her organization has staff members who travel internationally on a regular basis. She asks those members to take note of the differences in meeting design in other countries to help shape the development of the organization’s annual meeting.

In addition to listening to staff members’ thoughts, RSNA also has an International Advisory Committee that is tasked with providing advice to the Board of Directors on how issues and trends will impact the organization’s members around the globe. The 14-member committee provides a well-rounded, five-continent perspective with members from Germany, Tunisia, Argentina, Nigeria and more.

2) Invest in a multilingual marketing campaign.

The internal discussion may be in your organization’s native language, but it’s important to adapt your promotional materials to the languages of your target audiences. According to a recent survey of 400 B2B consumers in 10 non-English speaking countries conducted by the Common Sense Advisory, 84 percent said they are inclined to purchase online when the website is presented in their own language. The process isn’t as simple as entering text into a translation tool, though. Instead, your marketing department should work to offer a website that adheres to the cultural norms of prospective attendees in target markets.

“The doctrine in the past decade was that if you translate the website and digital media, then they will come,” Dr. Nitish Singh, Associate Professor of International Business, The Boeing Institute of International Business, St. Louis University, wrote in the Lionbridge Definitive Guide to Website Translation. “But studies after studies have now shown that customers worldwide are not just looking for a website or digital media which is translated. The website or digital media need to be well-localized so as to resonate with its end users’ cultural and functional expectations.”

However, it’s not just about speaking to prospective attendees in their native languages before the meeting. It’s equally important to offer that multilingual experience on-site. A multilingual city like Montréal, for example, gives you access to a diverse population representing 120 cultural communities and over 80 languages.

3) Make the paperwork feel less overwhelming.

Visas, passports, customs — the list of documentation for entering the host country for a conference can feel daunting. In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website, it’s important to offer helpful tips to guide attendees through the process of obtaining the appropriate credentials for border entry.

“Be sure to walk your attendees through every step of the process of submitting forms and paperwork to secure approval,” Michelle Crowley, Director, Global Development, PCMA, said. “You want to make their travel as easy as possible.”

In addition to helping attendees understand the details of international travel, it’s essential to work with the exhibitors who will be moving booth materials, product samples and giveaways across borders. Your meetings team won’t have to handle all the logistics for those exhibitors, either. In a recent interview with Tourisme Montréal, Diane Labbe Deegan, Director of Sales & Marketing at Canadian-based customs and transportation provider Mendelssohn Commerce highlighted how to make the process easy and efficient.

“The number one way to remove the barriers of crossing the border is 1) to officially register your meeting with the Canada Border Services Agency, and 2) to appoint a customs broker who specializes in meetings, conventions and trade shows,” Labbe Deegan said. “Once your meeting is officially registered, your customs broker will act as the liaison between you, your exhibitors and the CBSA.”

SEE ALSO: How You And Your Exhibitors Can Breeze Through Customs

4) Pick a familiar host city with a proven track record.

While the educational offerings at your conference play a pivotal role in attracting international attendees, the location can be an equally important ingredient in each attendee’s decision-making process. As you compare host destinations, ask the local convention and visitors bureaus for past attendance numbers of similar events to determine how attractive the destination is to audiences from specific countries.  In Montréal, those past attendance numbers are quite impressive. The Union of International Associations has ranked Montréal #1 in the Americas for the number of international meetings for the past four years.

While part of Montréal’s success as an international meetings hub is due to its accessibility — the city’s Trudeau Airport welcomes more than 75 direct international flights each day — an equally important factor is the city’s network of local leaders. With four world-class universities, associations can choose from a pool of expert academics to enhance their educational programming.

5) Give the globe a digital introduction to your meeting.

No matter how much energy you invest in reaching a bigger audience, some international attendees will not be able to participate in the face-to-face experience. Schedules can be busy, and travel costs can be prohibitive. However, your meeting can still establish an introductory relationship with attendees from thousands of miles away by embracing a digital strategy.

“Offering a virtual portion of your meeting’s content can serve as a strong introduction for global attendees who aren’t familiar with your organization,” Carolyn Clark, Director, Virtual Edge Institute, said. “Consider the virtual meeting a way to help them recognize the value of the on-site experience."

“If you can impress them with your education while they’re thousands of miles away, they’ll be more likely to invest in travel and registration expenses the following year,” Clark added.


This educational article was brought to you by Tourisme Montréal. For the past four years, Montréal has been the #1 destination in the Americas for international association events. During the past year, the city has hosted 79 international events and welcomed 52,000 participants to the Palais des congrès.

Tourisme Montréal brings a special brand of savoir-faire to the table, with streamlined solutions and a staff of experienced managers at its Montréal office as well as its satellite offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Paris.

Moreover, once a meeting is confirmed in Montréal, the Convention Services team is there to accompany planners every step of the way—from the first site visit until the departure of the last delegate—and provides a wide range of attendance-building tools and helpful advice to ensure the event is a success. As part of “Team Montréal”, a coalition of the city’s convention and meeting industry leaders, Tourisme Montréal is dedicated to making planners Montréal experience rewarding, efficient and successful.

Click here to learn about Montréal’s elite status as the #1 destination in the Americas for international association events.

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